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'Amaterasu' (天照 or Amateratsu) is a Shinto Sun goddess; she is the mythical ancestress of the royal family of Japan. Her full name is Amaterasu-o-mi-kami(天照大神) and it means glorious goddess who shines in the heavens.

Amaterasu was born from the eye of the primordial god Izanagi while he was purifying himself in a river. She became the ruler of the High Celestial Plain (Takamagahara).

Kojiki, the earliest Japanese sacred chronicle, recounts an ancient tale, which is a version of the Missing Sun myth. When her unruly brother, the storm god Susanowo, ravaged the earth and ruined his sister's rice fields, garden and temples, Amaterasu was so embarrassed that she retreated into a cave. The world was plunged into darkness. The other gods failed to make her come out.

Then the goddess Ama-no-Uzume had an idea. She hung a mirror on a nearby tree, organized a celebration and performed an erotic dance before the cave. It made the other gods laugh so loud that Amaterasu became curious and peeked out. She saw her own reflection in the mirror. The other gods pulled her out and convinced her to return to the sky.

Later she sent her grandson Ninigi no Mikoto to pacify Japan: his great-grandson became the first emperor Jimmu Tenno. With him he had a sacred sword, jewel and mirror that became the Japanese imperial regalia.

Amaterasu is also credited with inventing the cultivation of rice and wheat, the use of silkworms, and weaving with a loom. Her most important shrine is located in Ise, Japan on the island of Honshu. The temple is torn down and rebuilt every twenty years. In that temple she is represented as a mirror.

She is celebrated every July 17 with street processions all over the country. Festivities on December 21, the winter solstice, celebrate her coming out of the cave.

Until the end of World War II, the Japanese royal family claimed descent from Amaterasu, and the emperor was officially considered divine.